Imagine a full-frame DSLR such as the Sony Alpha SLT-A99; shrink its size by 60 per cent and shed 40 per cent of its weight, and you get the RX1 prosumer compact camera.
Recently, Sony released the RX1R, a sister version of the original.
So do you opt for the RX1 or the RX1R, with both sharing the same hefty $3,999 price tag?
The RX1R is almost identical to the original but lacks an optical low-pass filter (OLPF). The OLPF is used in many DSLR cameras to reduce moire - wavy patterns - and colour artefacts at the expense of image sharpness. So, the RX1R is supposed to provide better image sharpness and resolution.
Button placement is the same as the RX1, which is well thought out.
You can find the mode and exposure value compensation (EV) dials on the top with a control dial on the back of the camera. In front of the EV dial, there is a C button that you can customise to your liking. The default is for ISO sensitivity.
Changing of aperture settings is done through a manual aperture ring on the lens' barrel. Switching to macro mode requires you to turn another control ring in front of the aperture ring that allows you to focus for distances between 20cm and 35cm.
While the RX1R is small compared with a full-frame DSLR, its build is solid and sturdy. It feels like a Leica rangefinder when you put an optical viewfinder (FDA-V1K) on its hot shoe. Alternatively, you can splurge on Sony's electronic viewfinder (EVF), the FDA-EV1MK ($629). While you can tilt the EVF 90 degrees to shoot at waist level, it adds bulk and lacks a locking mechanism. However, the EVF does make shooting more comfortable, especially in bright sunlight.
Both cameras start up in around 1.2sec, with shutting down taking about the same time of 1.7sec. Shutter lag is negligible.
Autofocusing (AF) for both cameras is almost immediate in bright sunlight. However, sometimes it does focus back and forth before locking on to a sharp focus, which might cause a delay of 1sec. In dim lighting conditions, it takes up to 3sec for both cameras to secure a focus with the aid of AF assist light.
Using an SD card rated at 10MB per second, both cameras are able to capture 12 RAW images in 2.1sec before the buffer runs out.
Both the RX1 and the RX1R have average battery life, taking around 270 still pictures before the batteries go flat. Image quality for both is excellent. Colours are vibrant with good dynamic and nice saturation. Auto white balance is also accurate in most lighting conditions.
The noise performance of both RX1s is amazing with zero noise artefacts until ISO 3,200. At ISO 6,400, you start to see slight loss of details. Even at ISO 12,800, where there is evident discolouration and more detail loss, the images are still good for small prints and Web use.
As you might expect, images from the RX1R appear slightly sharper than from the RX1. In addition, the moire patterns exhibited are not that bad on the RX1R.
If you already have a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 and shoot portraits or weddings, keep it. But if you are looking for an excellent compact camera to shoot scenic landscapes, then the RX1R is the one to drool over.
Image sensor: 24.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
Lens: 35mm f/2.0
Screen: Fixed 3-inch LCD with 1,229,000 dots
Shooting speed: Up to 5 frames per second
Sensitivity: ISO 50 - 25,600
Weight: 482g (with battery and memory card)
Value for money: 6/10
Battery life: 6/10
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